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OMG your braid makes me so horny. (note: not really)
April 13, 2012 12:17 PM   Subscribe

Help me understand the psychology of a sexual fetish. Most of the time I have no problem at all indulging my boyfriend's fetish and actually enjoy it myself. Occasionally it makes me feel insecure and shitty, which ruins it for him. How to deal?

He has a fetish for a specific female hairstyle. Wearing it is a surefire way for me to have his complete attention and excitement. Occasionally I'll wear it in public for him. We point out cute women wearing this hairstyle to each other all the time (I'm bi and we enjoy occasional threesomes with women, and I do find the hairstyle attractive - sometimes). It's the only kind of porn he looks at.

I love wearing it to make him happy, I enjoy what it does to him, but I don't have any fetishes that are this strong, so I don't really understand or relate to it completely. When I'm feeling particularly down or insecure or unhappy about something, I feel like it's more about the hairstyle than me and I resent it a lot. Sometimes when I want to be close, romantic and loving, it feels to me like the hairstyle gets in the way of that, making things kinky and fetishy instead - to him they aren't mutually exclusive at all.

When I said recently I only wear it for him, because it makes him so happy, and that I wouldn't ever wear my hair like that otherwise, he got very upset and said I was ruining it for him. I totally don't understand this. When I pointed out something he does for me in bed that obviously he wouldn't do if I didn't enjoy it, he really didn't have an answer.

His kink certainly isn't something he has a problem with or is ashamed of, and it's not hurting anyone at all. So how do we not hurt each other with it?
posted by thrasher to Human Relations (36 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't really think this is a 'fetish' issue. This fetish is really just a look that he is attracted to. If he preferred blondes, would we call it a fetish? Probably not. We could substitute anything in for this hairstyle, like wearing lacy underwear, or doing a striptease, or having sex in a certain position. Would it bother you then, if it was something that most guys find sexy?

I don't blame him for getting upset about what you said. It sounds like you are resentful about this hairstyle thing and it is showing through. I may not think that giving blow jobs is all sunshine and butterflies all the time, but I don't tell my husband that I only do it because he likes it and would never do it otherwise - putting it that way makes it sound less like "I enjoy pleasuring you!" and more like "I wish I didn't have to do this to pleasure you, but sigh, I guess I will."
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:26 PM on April 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


When a fetish becomes more important than the happiness of your partner, you've lost sight of what it means to be in a relationship with that person. The fact that your BF actively got mad at you for setting a boundary about the fetish indicates he's got his priorities mixed up. You may need to ask him which is more important -- you, or the hairstyle, and if he gets mad at that, I would wager he needs to either get going or get some therapy to have a more rational view of this fetish and how it impacts your relationship.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:26 PM on April 13, 2012 [16 favorites]


It sounds like you're being good, giving, and game, but he isn't reciprocating. Not that you have a kink that he's not indulging, but that you have a need for vanilla, romantic intimacy that he isn't fulfilling.

When I said recently I only wear it for him, because it makes him so happy, and that I wouldn't ever wear my hair like that otherwise, he got very upset and said I was ruining it for him. I totally don't understand this.

Most sexual things are more enjoyable when they are done (or perceived to be done) because they are enjoyable for both parties (the major exception being kinks that explicitly transgress this idea). So, for example, a striptease is typically much hotter if the viewer thinks the stripper is getting off on dancing sexily and being watched. Doing something just because you're asked is a lot more like domination, which your boyfriend evidently isn't in to, at least not with regard to your hairstyle.

When I pointed out something he does for me in bed that obviously he wouldn't do if I didn't enjoy it, he really didn't have an answer.

It's not about whether the receiver enjoys it, it's about whether the giver enjoys it. He needs to feel like you enjoy doing your hair up in this particular way, and probably he also needs to feel like you enjoy it because it makes you look sexy for him.

To use an analogy: oral sex is a lot more enjoyable if you feel like the giver actually enjoys what they're doing. If you know they're only doing it because you like it and they actually dislike doing it, it's not so fun.

His kink certainly isn't something he has a problem with or is ashamed of, and it's not hurting anyone at all. So how do we not hurt each other with it?

You communicate about boundaries, needs, and priorities. He needs to respect that you don't always want to wear your hair that way and certainly don't want to do it on demand. He needs to understand that you need romantic, loving intimacy. And you both need to communicate about your priorities about both of these aspects of your sexual relationship. If you can't come to a consensus, then it's important to figure that out sooner rather than later.
posted by Sockenpuppe at 12:32 PM on April 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


When I said recently I only wear it for him, because it makes him so happy, and that I wouldn't ever wear my hair like that otherwise, he got very upset and said I was ruining it for him.

This is something that happens in dudes with fetishes sometimes and I think it's a little hard to untangle. The underlying emotion here is that he wants to believe it's something you'd do of your own volition, because then that means you're into it on some level and that's more enjoyable for him, in whatever way. Honestly this was an emotional reaction that's common enough in this situation and that he himself doesn't appear to understand. And I think he should, because you're willing to put work into this so why isn't he?

The truth is, "do you only wear it for me?" isn't the sort of question he should be asking. He has a fetish, you love making him happy by indulging it, and indulging it makes you happy. He needs to understand that the latter part of the previous sentence needs to be enough because it is enough. In short, he needs to learn to take yes for an answer.

Sometimes when I want to be close, romantic and loving, it feels to me like the hairstyle gets in the way of that, making things kinky and fetishy instead - to him they aren't mutually exclusive at all.

They don't necessarily have to be mutually exclusive but the two of you need to communicate to one another exactly what your needs are and how you'd like to have them met. Tell him you need loving, romantic intimacy, and that at least for now you'd prefer that it not involve the hairstyle because one of your needs is that you need to feel like it's you he wants, not just a warm body with the hairstyle he likes. He doesn't need to understand why you feel that way. He doesn't need to argue that it's you he really wants (which he might) - he just needs to show you. You're going to great lengths to satisfy him - this really isn't very much to ask.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:40 PM on April 13, 2012 [14 favorites]


When I said recently I only wear it for him, because it makes him so happy, and that I wouldn't ever wear my hair like that otherwise, he got very upset and said I was ruining it for him.

Oh, the perennial "This only turns me on if it turns you on -- so don't tell me that it doesn't turn you on and always act like you like it whether you do or not!" That's not limited to fetishists. It is common to people who are a wee bit selfish (an often more than a wee bit.)

So how do we not hurt each other with it?

Both people need to be asking this question for you to get anywhere. It sounds like you are already putting a lot of effort into understanding him, being accommodating around his fetish and making him feel good. It sounds like he is not showing that level of concern trying to fully understand you and with making absolutely sure that he can make you feel good in all the way you hope for.

That's the starting point to solving this IMO. He is the one who needs to start stepping up. It can't just be you always trying to understand and mold yourself to his wants and needs all the time it has to be mutual. If he is just going to "get angry" whenever you have wants or needs that don't perfectly mesh with his, or he doesn't understand you, then I think he's not mature enough for this relationship yet.
posted by cairdeas at 12:42 PM on April 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


I just think a lot of the time when a relationship behavior makes women feel, as you say, "insecure and shitty" we are socialized to just try to find ways to be more supporting, more understanding and deal with it. That the other person's behavior must be fine and we are the ones in the wrong, and bad selfish partners is we take issue with it. But, that's often not really true. Sometimes, the behavior that makes us feel shitty is the thing that should change.
posted by cairdeas at 12:47 PM on April 13, 2012 [25 favorites]


@treehorn+bunny, what then, qualifies as a fetish to you?
posted by thrasher at 12:51 PM on April 13, 2012


When I'm feeling particularly down or insecure or unhappy about something, I feel like it's more about the hairstyle than me and I resent it a lot. Sometimes when I want to be close, romantic and loving, it feels to me like the hairstyle gets in the way of that, making things kinky and fetishy instead - to him they aren't mutually exclusive at all.

Since you don't really understand fetishes, let me help you identify with it. For a moment, try to think of a fetish like ketchup, or some other condiment you really, really enjoy. The kind of condiment you put on just about anything, because no matter how good that food may taste, ketchup just makes it a lot better for you (as well as turning less-palatable things into palatable things, of course.)

It's good that you're willing to put ketchup on everything for him, it's thoughtful and supportive and loving, and those are wonderful traits to have in a partner. Still, sometimes when you've cooked a particularly good meal -- or when you're feeling particularly down or insecure about your cooking skills, or about something totally unrelated -- you want him to appreciate your cooking without slathering ketchup all over it. And that's totally reasonable! In fact, that's what he should be doing as a thoughtful, supportive and loving partner.

So first, when you're feeling that way, don't put ketchup on it. Don't wear the hairstyle when you feel that way. Then reach out to him for the love and the attention you want (and I mean "reach out", just like you'd say "you know, I'm feeling sad about something, and I need some love and support") without worrying about the hairstyle (that is, don't say "I didn't wear the hairstyle because I need your love and support right now without it", because you needing love and support isn't about the hairstyle in any way, shape or form.)

If he's a good partner, he'll give you that love and support when you ask for it, hairstyle or not (and since the hairstyle makes you feel bad in those times, for you it should definitely be without it when you're feeling that way.) And if he doesn't...well, read the rest of this comment.

When I said recently I only wear it for him, because it makes him so happy, and that I wouldn't ever wear my hair like that otherwise, he got very upset and said I was ruining it for him. I totally don't understand this. When I pointed out something he does for me in bed that obviously he wouldn't do if I didn't enjoy it, he really didn't have an answer.

There's fetish, and there's obsession; there's healthy, and there's not. If someone is able to say "I really, really like it when you do X, but if you don't feel like doing X most of the time, that's fine by me and I really appreciate when you do X", then you're in safe territory, ideal territory, really. If someone instead says "I need you to do X and pretend that X is as important to you as it is to me, even if you don't like doing X, and if you can't pretend, then you make me angry", that's pretty darn bad, to be honest, because he's thinking only of his needs and not of yours. At minimum, it is selfish and thoughtless in the moment; at worst, it is selfish and thoughtless period, and he's never thinking of you.

So you need to sit him down and make it clear: you understand he has desires, and you want to help fulfill them, but only for someone who is equally considerate a partner -- which means accepting that you won't always fulfill his fetish, and sometimes you need him to fulfill yours, even if your only fetish is to be loved and supported and cared about even when you're having a bad (from his perspective) hair day.

Good luck.
posted by davejay at 12:55 PM on April 13, 2012 [35 favorites]


It's obviously a fetish. Tell him you have the right to be honest about your preferences and if he doesn't like it he can hire a hooker. Or not. But you get where I'm going with this. You're a person, not a fetish object, and your feelings and desires don't exist simply to power his sex life. Sometimes they will be incompatible with his sexual desires, and that is more than okay. It's part of being in a relationship with another human being.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:55 PM on April 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


@Sockenpuppe
he also needs to feel like you enjoy it because it makes you look sexy for him.

That's exactly it - I DO enjoy it BECAUSE it makes me look sexy, FOR HIM. I was being honest with him, I personally don't think the hairstyle works on me much at all. And maybe that's part of the problem: that he thinks I look so amazing wearing it does not convince me of the same.
posted by thrasher at 12:58 PM on April 13, 2012


Cairdeas is right. You are feeling shitty because he is being selfish. The hairstyle only brought that to the surface. His reaction was telling: When I said recently I only wear it for him, because it makes him so happy, and that I wouldn't ever wear my hair like that otherwise, he got very upset and said I was ruining it for him.

Note that his reaction was "Boo hoo, you are ruining it for MEEEEEEEEE!" I would be upset too if I tried to raise an issue with my partner and got this "me, me, ME, you upset ME, you are ruining it for ME" reaction.

I just think a lot of the time when a relationship behavior makes women feel, as you say, "insecure and shitty" we are socialized to just try to find ways to be more supporting, more understanding and deal with it. That the other person's behavior must be fine and we are the ones in the wrong, and bad selfish partners is we take issue with it. But, that's often not really true. Sometimes, the behavior that makes us feel shitty is the thing that should change. - cairdeas

Quoted for truth. You are being good, giving and game, but GGG cuts BOTH ways. HE needs to be just as GGG and not be selfish. Don't let GGG slide over into you martyring yourself and not allowing yourself to have needs, wants and desires. If he continues to make everything all about him, and refuses to meet you halfway or consider your needs, you may want to re-evaluate whether you want to be with a selfish taker.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:03 PM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think it's normal to feel shitty when this stuff Has to happen to make them happy. You want it to be about you, not the ketchup or the hairstyle. Because the fetish is objectifying (which is both what makes it hot and sometimes makes it icky for you), sometimes you feel like it's not about You, it's about the hairstyle.

Believe him when he thinks you look amazing in that hairstyle, because you look amazing to him. In return, he should accept that you sometimes need to do non-hairstyle, and need him to affirm that he'd love you even if you shaved your head.
posted by ldthomps at 1:14 PM on April 13, 2012


N'thing it's obviously a fetish, and he is being immature/selfish about it. Everyone else has already given pretty good explanations of why, but I just want to reiterate that it's ok to assert your own needs and desires here - wanting reassurance that you are wanted for yourself, whatever that means to YOU, is not an attack on him or his desires unless you explicitly make it so. In my experience immature people will try to blur those lines and act like it is.
posted by celtalitha at 1:29 PM on April 13, 2012


Apparently I've given the incorrect impression that this is a constant problem - it's not, and I don't think he's being overly selfish about it. He just has a fetish and I don't - I think it's an imbalance in desired frequency.

We have great sex a lot with normal hair, like once a day. With hairstyle, maybe once a week. I think he'd like to have the hairstyle much more frequently than he gets it from me. He will turn to porn if he hasn't gotten the hairstyle in a week (and sometimes even if he has), and during sex I often think "he'd be enjoying this more if I did my hair." He doesn't ask for it. He doesn't have to say he wants it, of course I know he wants it!

Switching ketchup to cheese (excellent analogy, thanks davejay), because that's just about true for me - ANYTHING would be better with cheese on it. He knows this and, as the cook in our house, indulges me in that often. And he's never once resented me for putting cheese on something when he normally wouldn't.

But then, I don't masturbate to pictures of cheese.
posted by thrasher at 1:35 PM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


@ldthomps
you sometimes need to do non-hairstyle, and need him to affirm that he'd love you even if you shaved your head.

I asked him about that once. He grinned and said we'd have to get a wig.
posted by thrasher at 1:39 PM on April 13, 2012


His kink certainly isn't something he has a problem with or is ashamed of, and it's not hurting anyone at all. So how do we not hurt each other with it?

One thing that might be of comfort to you is that it is just a hairstyle; you can easily change your hair. It might be so much worse if it were a fetish for a body part you could only change through surgery. Maybe that can help you feel a little less hurt (although I feel like he's behaving selfishly from your description).
posted by 200burritos at 1:40 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I dated someone who had a similar obsession/fetish to a certain style of skirt, and I definitely felt, same as you, that he was more attracted to the THING instead of to ME.

That made me feel like shit. It made me feel like a mannequin.

We had sex without the skirt thing, but when the skirt thing was involved, I could tell he liked it more. He had a similar display of rage as your boyfriend, too, which I think was caught up in various deep undercurrents of shame...but I digress.

The point is: I finally realized that what he needed from a sex partner wasn't good for me as a partner. I needed something different.

In better climes now. I'm not saying DTMFA, but consider what you need to be happy, at least.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 1:43 PM on April 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


We have great sex a lot with normal hair, like once a day. With hairstyle, maybe once a week. I think he'd like to have the hairstyle much more frequently than he gets it from me. He will turn to porn if he hasn't gotten the hairstyle in a week (and sometimes even if he has), and during sex I often think "he'd be enjoying this more if I did my hair." He doesn't ask for it. He doesn't have to say he wants it, of course I know he wants it!

It sounds like he was perfectly fine with the way things were until you actually vocalized the fact that you don't always like the hairstyle. He's acting like a spoiled brat because you "ruined the fantasy." Fetish or not, he needs to come to grips with the fact that he is with a real person, who has real needs and feels, not some fantasy object.

Does he act similarly selfish in other, non-sexually charged situations?
posted by asnider at 2:04 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


He's the one being inconsiderate, not you. You're happy to play with him in the fantasy, which makes you a good sport. You're also allowed to say that the fantasy hairstyle doesn't do anything for you, if that's true for you, and he's a bit out of line in being mad at you for breaking the kayfabe.

I mean, if his kink was that you were an enema nurse or whatever, you wouldn't have to pretend that you were actually an enema nurse when you weren't having the scene, would you?

Don't tell us what the fantasy hairstyle is, because in my mind I've decided that it is the same as Pippi Longstocking and I don't want to be disabused of that delightful notion.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:12 PM on April 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


For the record, AFAIK the "technical" definition of a fetish is that the owner is unable to orgasm without the fetish: it is essential for satisfaction.

In a more popular usage, it merely means "something highly desired, that is unusual" - I think this is the sort of fetish your boyfriend has.

I qualify for the latter definition. It's varied in strength/importance to me throughout my life, and frankly it's somewhat unimportant at this point.

But I've known guys who are selfish about their fetishes - and make no mistake about it, despite your assurances to the contrary, he is being childishly self-centered about it.

You are being GGG - often! You are not required to be GGG all the time - that is part of his GGG requirement, and he's not living up to it. Also, it's unreasonable for him to expect that you just naturally, and independently of him, share his preferences.

Hey, if I had a fetish for green-skinned girls, and my ladyfriend were willing to don some makeup from time to time, or let me photoshop a Trekkie-like photo of her for my desk, that oughta be enough. Demanding that she say, "Hey, baby, even if you weren't here, I'd be wearing this bodysuit" is pretty unreasonable.

So says a guy with a fetish.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:26 PM on April 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's been asked enough times (and deleted once even) that I will say sidhedevil isn't far off. Not naming it directly in order to keep it out of the clutches of search engines.
posted by thrasher at 2:28 PM on April 13, 2012


That's exactly it - I DO enjoy it BECAUSE it makes me look sexy, FOR HIM. I was being honest with him, I personally don't think the hairstyle works on me much at all. And maybe that's part of the problem: that he thinks I look so amazing wearing it does not convince me of the same.

Just to address this part: I think alot of it has to do with how you say something. Like if you say "I'm only doing this for you, and I'd really never wear my hair like this otherwise", it's not that far from "I like doing this for you, you're the only one I want to do this for". Maybe something like that would sound better for him?
posted by 23skidoo at 3:54 PM on April 13, 2012


I think part of the fetish, in addition to the look, is that you are the sort of person the look expresses. This is what you would take away by what you said.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:23 PM on April 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Heck, you can understand this without even bringing the fetish aspect into it. If your partner told you, "I don't really like having sex, in fact I'd rather not ever have sex, I'm just faking enjoyment when I'm in bed with you" you'd be unhappy, yes? (Or if you prefer, analogize with some activity that women 1950s-stereotypically like and men 1950s-st. pretend to like, like romantic outings or children.)

It's all in the way that you regard the activity. If you actually enjoy the fact that he finds you sexier when you have this hairstyle, then tell him that: that's essentially what he wants to hear. If you don't enjoy the fact that he finds you sexier when you have this hairstyle, then don't do it.
posted by hattifattener at 4:54 PM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


When I said recently I only wear it for him, because it makes him so happy, and that I wouldn't ever wear my hair like that otherwise, he got very upset and said I was ruining it for him.

This puppy needs to grow up and stop being so self involved. Other people have feelings too. This isn't about the fetish it is about him putting that in front of your needs. I don't see how the relationship can move forward successfully unless he can get some perspective here.
posted by caddis at 5:40 PM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


He had a similar display of rage as your boyfriend, too, which I think was caught up in various deep undercurrents of shame...but I digress.

This is a good point, and I think it's not really such a digression, because it may help the OP understand what her guy is going through that's making him act so obnoxious about this.

When I was first coming to accept and feel good about my own kinks, I had a hard time understanding that someone could be okay with them. I mean, I knew there were people who were really into them, and I knew there were people who were totally disgusted by them, but I didn't really comprehend that some people were in the middle ground and just thought they were, you know, okay.

To me, the kinks were inherently shameful and upsetting, and I was sure that everyone in the world found them totally revolting. The only way I could imagine someone getting past their revulsion was if they were also majorly turned on. (This was a huge piece of projection on my part, of course. I was revolted by my own kinks, and I could only get past that revulsion if I was also majorly turned on.)

At that point in my life, if someone told me they were indulging one of my kinks just for me, and not personally into it, what I would hear was "I am totally revolted by this, I really basically want to throw up right now, but I'm holding it down just for you because I want to make you happy." And that is kind of a buzzkill, no two ways around it. I had to get to a much more self-accepting place in my own head before I could hear someone say "Not my thing, but I wouldn't mind trying it" and recognize that they really meant it and just had no strong feelings one way or another.

This totally does not mean that your boyfriend should get free license to be a jerk about this stuff! He totally needs to work on his own shit and learn to communicate better and take "no" for an answer and all that! The "I only like it if you like it" selfish-petulance thing is really annoying, and in the long run he's gonna need to cut that shit out. But in the short run it may help both of you out if you recognize that it's not necessarily pure selfishness all the way down, that there's probably some shame and fear lurking behind it. If nothing else, "He's a selfish jerk sometimes for no reason" doesn't really outline a clear path to making things better, whereas "He's a selfish jerk when he's feeling ashamed and frightened" gives you both some sort of clue where to start.

My personal recommendation would be to get the guy into therapy with someone sex- and kink-positive. But that will only work if he's willing to hear the suggestion as "I love you and want you to be happy" and not "I think you're a sick fucking pervert and you need help." If he won't do therapy then it's up to him to get his head straight on this shit on his own — and up to you to decide how patient you want to be with him while he's working on that.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:09 PM on April 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


To answer your question OP, a fetish is in the eye of the beholder, because the definition is subjective. So I guess for me, a fetish is something that I can't imagine being attracted to, like sadism, or like the people from Savage Love who write in with questions like "I get off from masturbating with a loaf of bread, is that normal?" When it comes to things like hairstyles, sexy clothes, or high heels, I don't really see it as a fetish per se, because I can see how a certain hairstyle or a certain pair of shoes could be really hot and attractive. Then again, I don't know what the hairstyle is, and I was picturing it being something that in my mind would be a sexy hairstyle, and now that there is an implication that it might be more Pippi Longstocking-ish, I definitely see more of the fetish element of it. :-)

I still think people are being kind of hard on your man, though. I can really sympathize with not wanting to be told that something you enjoy in bed is not interesting or enjoyable for the other person, at least if it's something relatively vanilla and harmless. Maybe that makes me selfish, but I rather think it is a human tendency to want your partner to enjoy pleasing you so much that it's something they enthusiastically do for you. I think we all have our own little things like this hairstyle that are important to us that we want our partners to tell us white lies about, in some sense. It's like the answer to "do I look fat in these jeans?" - most people prefer the partner who says "honey, you look amazing as always" instead of the brutally honest partner who says "yes, they give you a muffin top."
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:19 PM on April 13, 2012


I don't think this is selfish. The difference in subjective experience between someone who shares your kink and someone who only tolerates it is night and day.
posted by ead at 9:48 PM on April 13, 2012


Er, to clarify, I also don't think you're under any obligation to have compatible kinks, or pretend you do, or anything of the sort. You're different. You already knew that. He just found out.
posted by ead at 10:45 PM on April 13, 2012


Going out on a limb: your relationship is ending.

The word "fetish" is always followed by "disavowal."

Speaking generally and not specifically about your case, and defining fetish as sexually necessary, not merely a strong preference, the "problem" with fetishes is that they are replacements for the person.

An example of this is the 40 something woman who looks in the mirror and decides that her entire sexuality is in a single special part of her, say, her butt-- so she diets to make the butt look good at the expense of bony shoulders and a gaunt face. She's fetishized her butt. The point of fetish-izing is to be able to ignore the rest of reality. Disavowal.

Men sometimes do the same to their spouses, empowering a single body part of hers with all of the sexuality, e.g. looking at the calf or the hip bone doesn't simply remind him of the 20 year old version of his wife, but becomes the fetish that replaces the long gone 20 year old version. But this isn't illusion or delusion, he is not imagining what his wife looked like, the single body part is enough to generate arousal without needing to become aroused by the rest of her; in the same way that any fetish (specific kind of shoe, or a foot, or a piece of lace) is entirely sufficient to generate arousal. The problem is that this doesn't make the woman look hotter, it replaces the woman, so now neither the 20 year old version nor the 40 year old version are necessary.

A common sign of this is that the (woman thinks that her) man seems to be completely smitten by his girlfriend, "she turns me on so much," seems to want her all the time. And the woman takes this personally, "wow, he really likes me, he really makes me feel good about myself, my body." What's she doesn't see (and I don't know if this is your case, I'm speaking only generally) is that the huge sexual energy for "her" is really about the fetishized her, not her. "Oh my god, I love my heroin dealer, she is the best!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

In such cases, love for a person is very separate from lust for a person.

In your case, the threesomes and the braid lead me to....... suspect that he may love you but his sexuality is elsewhere, you just happen to be in the blast radius. That love may be enough to sustain the relationship forever-- but I'd watch out for affairs, pros, etc.
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 2:54 PM on April 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


@TheLastPsychiatrist, are you saying that people who have fetishes or who have threesomes are incapable of having healthy relationships?
posted by thrasher at 12:12 PM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


@thrasher no of course not; but you're looking at it the wrong way, you're asking "are fetishes always pathological?" No, it's not the fetish that's the pathology, but what it means to the person that might be. A person could have a, say, foot fetish, that is the coping strategy for a decade of sexual abuse and that fetish keeps him together and balanced. Is that bad? Or he could have a foot fetish such that if his wife stops playing along, he has to go elsewhere to satisfy it because that's the only way he can discharge the energy.

In this case, above, however, what I am hearing is a man more connected to this fetish than he is to you. (I could be wrong, this is just what I infer from your blurb above.) You said: "the hairstyle gets in the way of [romance/intimacy], making things kinky and fetishy instead - to him they aren't mutually exclusive at all"

Yes, but not that he can be romantic and kinky at the same time, but that he can't be romantic without the fetish. Is this the case?
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 1:36 PM on April 16, 2012


When you are not wearing your hair in that style, and you say the sex that occurs is therefore non-fetishistic, you don't know that he's not fantasizing about a woman with the hairstyle. When you put your hair in that style, he gets the extra charge of having his fantasy become as close to reality as possible.

When you tell him that you don't really like the hairstyle, you are bursting the bubble completely. There may be shame involved, as one poster above said (because now you're not in the fantasy with him, you've taken yourself out of the fantasy and you are looking *at* him having a fantasy) -- but not necessarily.

It's more like what Obscure Reference said: it's not just the hairstyle: it's what the hairstyle *signifies* -- and now you're saying, "you know what? I'm really NOT her. I'm just pretending to be her" -- a total fantasy-killer, right?

As far as what to do -- you have to figure out if you want to be with somebody with such a specific fantasy (which, again, I believe is playing a role even when you're not doing your hair in that way)(e.g. there is the porn aspect too, you pointed out) that does *NOT* represent who you are (as Obscure Reference pointed out) -- or not.

This is where TheLastPsychiatrist's posts come in. A fetish (and this is certainly a fetish) is so specific, so narrow, by definition, in that the part (object/body part) is representing the whole (person), so that, in fact, you *are* being disregarded as a whole person.

And -- I wonder if this sexual fetish is the only highly rigid aspect of how this person regards and treats you.
posted by DMelanogaster at 4:01 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


TheLastPsychiatrist, your last post was much better worded, in part merely because you explained your point instead of making what came off (to some of us) as a glib remark.

I'd agree that the source of/use of/attitude towards a fetish is potentially pathological, and of far more importance than the fetish' existence.


Get off wearing the opposite gender's clothing?
No problem.

Can't get off without wearing the opposite gender's clothing?
Um, kinda limiting, suggestive of a potential problem, but... if that's your thing, and your SO is down with it, enjoy!

Can't get off any other way, because of Horrible Event In Your Childhood!!! ?
You really ought to talk to someone about it.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:10 AM on April 17, 2012


TheLastPsychiatrist: "not that he can be romantic and kinky at the same time, but that he can't be romantic without the fetish. Is this the case?"

I guess I'm not actually sure of the answer to your question anymore. We do have romantic, non-fetish sex, though DMelanogaster points out that perhaps he's still in the fantasy in his head. As I said upthread I often think he'd enjoy it more if I did my hair, though he has assured me otherwise, through words and actions. He certainly does not demand the hairstyle (except for one occasion, in scene, when I actually encouraged him to do so.) I nearly always do it without being asked. At times I've even asked him "do you want the hairstyle?" and he'll say "I want you to do whatever makes you happy." And he's sincere.

As for IAmBroom's simplification, I think that's another part of the problem for me - I don't actually know the origins of his fetish, and I'm not sure he does either. I have asked him about it at length. Things that seem like potential early triggers for it he assures me aren't, and he had no horrible childhood event (that I'm aware of). All he's been able to tell me is it took years to develop. And that his previous long term relationship was game for a while - until she eventually refused to wear the hairstyle when she began to feel, regularly, that it was more about the hair than her. He ended it with her when, after many years, "she wasn't any fun anymore." This involved many things that were no longer fun, but I'm sure the lack of hairstyle was on the list.
posted by thrasher at 10:06 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


dump him.

I say this because I have experience with talking to fetishist men online (not sexual talk but open, non-judgemental-counsellor kind) and you will not believe how many of them relish control at the expense of mutual understanding .. for example.. I talked to this guy who had urolagnia and towards the end of our talk he was like "hmm, I wonder if it's possible to control exactly when, where and how a girl would indulge me.. like, program her to please me". Nuff said.
posted by thespiritroom at 12:27 PM on April 20, 2012


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